Twenty years ago this day, the Andy Ashby shut out the Diamondbacks for the Padres’ eighth win in a row, moving the first-place Friars to 11-2 on their way to 98 wins and the National League championship. Of course it doesn’t matter how well someone pitches if he doesn’t have any offense to back him up, but fortunately Archi Cianfrocco was there to provide the bare minimum needed by Ashby.
It didn’t seem like the two clubs were lining up for a sub-two-hour pitchers’ duel when the Diamondbacks managed to put runners on the corners in the top of the first, but it turned out to be as close as they’d get to rattling Ashby. After allowing one single, one walk, and one steal, he got out of trouble and cruised from there on. Ashby retired the Diamondbacks in order in the second and third frames, and then again in the eighth and ninth. Between those two pairs of innings, he scattered three singles and a walk. He threw 76 of his 112 pitches for strikes, finishing with seven strikeouts while facing seven batters over the minimum.
Between Ashby’s trips to the hill, Brian Anderson was giving the Diamondbacks a comparable performance. The Arizona starter allowed just three hits and walked nobody in his eight innings, but one of those three knocks was all it took to give him the hard-luck loss.
Archi Cianfrocco had hit home runs before — 33 in the big leagues to that point — so his fifth-inning shot off of Anderson likely felt like nothing special to him. Not only was there no way of knowing that number 34 would be the decisive run in the game, it was even farther from everyone’s mind that this might be the last one he’d hit.
A fixture in San Diego since he was acquired from the Expos in 1993, Cianfrocco got off to a rough start in the championship year and eventually spent the bulk of the season on the disabled list and playing for the AAA Las Vegas Stars. He was not included on the postseason roster, and was released after the season. Cianfrocco played briefly the following season for the Seibu Lions, then in 2000 came back to the United States on a minor league deal with the Angels, but he didn’t make it past Spring Training, and called it a day.